I’ll soon be updating my camera collection with a replacement for my 6-year old Konica-Minolta 7D. The new Sony A77 camera actually shares the same lineage as the 7D, but I skipped a generation (the Sony A700). The 7-series of cameras is the higher end of the consumer models by Sony/Minolta. I still own my Minolta X-700 film camera, still want to buy the super Minolta Maxxum/Alpha 7 film camera, and seriously thought about getting the Sony A700 when it was released. But my 7D has kept chugging along, taking nice photographs so I decided to wait. It’s a very reliable camera. But within the past year, the body has started falling apart a bit. The little clip that holds the battery in place broke, but the door is strong enough to hold it securely. Just a couple months ago, the small sliding door that covers the USB cable connection busted. I still have the pieces, so a little glue should take care of it. But after 6+ years, I think the time is right to upgrade to the new Sony A77.
Six years is a long time in terms of camera technology. Not only has image quality improved, but Sony has invested in a new kind of system (SLT) which has some great advantages over the traditional SLR mechanics. The SLT system’s mirror does not flip up to let light hit the sensor. Instead, it is a semi-transparent mirror which reflects some light to an Electronic Viewfinder, and the rest to the main imaging sensor. Because the main sensor is always evaluating the scene (it has no traditional mirror blocking it), it can constantly autofocus, even while shooting video. Plus the FPS has been increased to 12 FPS even at full 24 Megapixels. The Electronic Viewfinder is OLED and is supposedly almost as good as a traditional optical viewfinder. The advantage of the EVF is that information can be overlaid onto the image and it shows you pretty much how the photo will turn out (white balance, aperture, exposure). Also, the viewfinder is as large as a full-frame camera’s and it shows 100% of the captured image.
Here’s a small list of the things I am looking forward to on the A77:
- GPS: It’s cool that the camera can geotag photos, but what’s really neat is that it can auto-adjust the date and time. I know, it’s silly, but so convenient!
- High ISO: With a range of 50-16,000 ISO low-light images will be much better than my 7D
- Peaking Mode: When you are manual focusing, the EVF will draw highlights around the parts of the image that are in focus. This is going to be a pleasure to use when I attach my old manual focus Minolta Rokkor lenses. I can’t wait to use my 135mm f/2!
- 3D Panorama: We recently got a 3D tv, and have looked at a few 3D images using it (and the PS3). It will be fun to make my own 3D images.
- Flash: My 7D never was able to get consistent exposures with my HVL-F56AM flash unit. I am anxious to be able to use it with confidence now.
- Weather Sealing: It’s not waterproof like my Panasonic Lumix, but it will be more resistant to rain and dirt than my 7D.
I’m sure everything about the A77 will be an improvement over the 7D, but I will miss a couple things about the ol Konica-Minolta; the beefy dials. These are so well-made and fun to use, that I don’t think anything can compare. It’s got a button on the top which you need to push in order to turn the dial. It’s so high-quality and I think it looks pro. It’s actually got two dials, one hidden below the main one which is turned by a lever. It’s so slick. I wish Sony would have kept them. I know the exposure compensation dial is probably unnecessary (I had re-programmed the rear control dial to adjust exposure anyways) but it looks so cool!
Thankfully Sony has kept many of the buttons in the same place from the 7D to the A700 and now to the A77, most importantly the AEL and AF/MF buttons. Of course most of these can be programmed to do most any function, but it will be great to not have to relearn them.
The new camera should be delivered soon and after I have some time playing around with it, I’ll write a follow up post with my impressions.